Group of Seven Discovery Route: Northeastern Ontario

Trees surrounded by hills and the lake

Are you looking to connect the art on the walls to the landscapes, vistas and waterways that fascinated the artists of the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson? The Group of Seven Discovery Route in Northeastern Ontario is one of the best places to start.  

The Group of Seven artists visited Northeastern Ontario for many years, as artists and as graphic designers. They travelled the rails to capture scenes of the hauntingly beautiful wilderness and commercial activity of the area. This included the resource-based industries dotting the landscapes as illustrated in Franklin Carmichael’s painting The Nickel Belt, c. 1928 in the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art at the Ottawa Art Gallery. 

2020 marked the 100th Anniversary of the Group of Seven’s foundation celebrated in this year’s exhibit; (Re)Collecting the Group of Seven: Celebrating 100 Years with a focus on A.Y. Jackson, A.J. Casson, and Arthur Lismer. 

Prior to travel, please contact the individual galleries and businesses to ensure you have the most up-to-date opening dates, times and other pertinent information due to COVID-19. Stay safe and healthy.

Chart a Course on the Group Of Seven Discovery Route in Northeastern Ontario  

The Group of Seven Discovery Route in Northeastern Ontario is varied with several possible itinerary combinations, but here are some of the key stops that we recommend along the way to give you a taste of what the region has to offer.  

Key Stops, Attractions and Landscapes on the Group Of Seven Discovery Route (Parry Sound/Killarney) 

1. Tom Thomson Artists Stations, Parry Sound 

Take in the views that inspired the artists, from land and water. There are two artists’ stations along the Rotary Algonquin Fitness Trail that overlook views painted by Tom Thomson on his July 1914 travels by canoe from Dr. MacCallum’s cottage at Go Home Bay. 

Connect to the canvas: though the Group of Seven formed after Thomson’s death, they all captured changing light, water and wind conditions in small outdoor paintings and sketches. This is demonstrated in F.H. Varley’s Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay, c. 1921, National Gallery of Canada. 

2.  Killarney Provincial Park, 960 ON-637, Killarney 

Open year-round; this area so captivated the Group of Seven’s A.Y. Jackson, Franklin Carmichael and A.J. Casson that they petitioned the government to designate it as a protected park. Art in the Park: Workshops and Events in Killarney Provincial Park. 

Join a landscape photography workshop or sign up for art lessons from artists in the Friends of Killarney’s Artist Residence Program. Pick up a free artist material lending kit at the Visitor Centre to create your own masterpiece, and take note of the annual Art Show and Sale. 

Hike to A.Y. Jackson Lake via the Cranberry Bog Trail from the George Lake Campground for a glimpse of the stunning vistas of forest and lakes. The La Cloche Silhouette Trail is an advanced multi-day hiking option, named after a 1930’s painting Franklin Carmichael sketched from a trail vantage point. Look to Killarney Outfitters to plan one of their Group of Seven Canoe Routes. 

Connect to the canvas: Franklin Carmichael’s In the La Cloche Hills, c. 1929 is on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario, while La Cloche no. 2, c. 1931 can be viewed at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound. 

Key Stops, Attractions and Landscapes on the Group Of Seven Discovery Route (Sudbury) 

3.  Annual La Cloche Art Show, Whitefish Falls Community Centre, Whitefish Falls 

Casson, Carmichael, Jackson, Lismer and MacDonald were all inspired by the La Cloche region’s rolling landscapes, and the tradition continues at the annual art show. 

4.  Widgawa Lodge, Willisville 

A.J. Casson painted local scenes during his stay at Widgawe Lodge, just outside Willisville, with a lake named in his honour. Paddle the route A.Y. Jackson took to Grace Lake, explore the La Cloche mountains and immerse yourself in this inspiring landscape. 

Connect to the canvas: Casson Lake, c. 1976 by A.J. Casson is on display at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. 

5.  Art Gallery of Sudbury, 251 John St, Sudbury 

The gallery’s permanent collection includes works by Tom Thomson and the original Group of Seven members, including Franklin Carmichael, Arthur Lismer, A.Y. Jackson, and Frederick Varley. A new bilingual exhibit, Franklin Carmichael at Work: An Artist’s Process featuring 43 original pieces, will be presented at the Art Gallery of Sudbury before travelling to the Art Gallery of Algoma. 

Connect to the canvas: Another Franklin Carmichael painting, Lake Wabagishik, c. 1928, was inspired by the Sudbury region and is currently on display at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. 

6.  A.Y. Jackson Lookout, Onaping Falls, ON-144, Greater Sudbury 

In the spring of 1953, A.Y. Jackson visited the Onaping River to sketch and paint. One of these pieces was displayed at Sudbury Secondary School until 1974, when it mysteriously disappeared. 

Approximately a half-hour’s drive northwest on Highway 144 from Sudbury towards Dowling, you’ll arrive at the turn-off for A.Y. Jackson Lookout. A popular spot for photographers, an accessible trail leads to the stunning High Falls cascading into the Sudbury basin. 

Key Stops, Attractions and Landscapes (Temiskaming/Cobalt) 

7.  Temiskaming Art Gallery, 325 Farr Drive, Temiskaming 

The collection features works by contemporaries of the Group of Seven, including George Pepper. Each summer, the gallery hosts the Annual Juried Exhibition, an event Group of Seven members participated in as jurors in their time. 

8.  Town of Cobalt 

Carmichael, Jackson and Lismer depicted views of resource extraction and scenes of villages and towns in and around Cobalt, a Parks Canada National Historic Mining District. Heritage sites include the Cobalt Townsite Mine, the Cobalt Mining Museum, the Heritage Silver Trail and the Welcome Centre in the Trail Station on Cobalt Lake’s shores. 

Connect to the canvas: Jackson’s Cobalt Ontario, c. 1932, National Gallery of Canada depicts industry activity near freestanding homes throughout the town. 

Key Stops, Attractions and Landscapes on the Group Of Seven Discovery Route (Manitoulin Island/Owen Sound)  

9.  The Tom Thomson Art Gallery, 840 1st Ave West, Owen Sound 

Dedicated to the innovative and artistic spirit of Tom Thomson, the gallery features some of his work as well as contemporary art, including a beautiful Indigenous collection. Stretch your legs along the Tom Thomson Trail that connects Owen Sound to the Georgian Trail in Meaford, and pass by the Pioneer Cemetery at the Leith Church where Tom Thomson is buried. 

10.  Perivale Gallery, 1320 Perivale Rd E, Spring Bay, Manitoulin Island 

Visit this carefully-curated art attraction, set among the pines and overlooking the shimmering waters of Lake Kagawong. Each summer, they host ‘In the Spirit of Tom Thomson and The Group of Seven,’ an exhibit of work inspired by Canada’s beloved artists. 

Map of Northeastern Ontario

Tips and Resources 

  • Get your copy of Jim and Sue Waddington’s book “In the Footsteps of the Group of Seven” from the Art Gallery of Sudbury
  • Add the album “Walking in the Footsteps” by Canadian singer/songwriter and Juno award winner Ian Tamblyn to your playlist. CDs are sold at the Art Gallery of Sudbury
  • Parkbus provides day and overnight trips to and from Toronto and Ottawa, Algonquin Park, Killarney Park, Georgian Bay and Tobermory. 
  • Some of these stops are seasonal, book ahead and double-check operating hours and dates to avoid disappointment. 
Some things to do may not be available due to COVID-19.

For the most up-to-date information on where and when it is safe to travel please visit: covid-19.ontario.ca